Seniors top priority in Bethany
BETHANY-First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski said she sees a positive future for Bethany seniors in 2006.
"My New Year's wish for Bethany seniors is to be able to give them more choices for assistance in 2006," Gorski said.
And in 2005 she worked hard to have a variety of ways to help them available in the new year.
One way, Gorski said, was to increase tax relief to closer match what the state parameters are.
To do this Gorski taxed a committee to review what Bethany currently offers and build from there.
Currently Bethany offers about half of what the state gives Gorski said.
The committee was composed of Chip Spear, chairman, Thelma Lumpkin, Ann Lehman, Katie Schultz and Skip Borgerson.
They recently made their presentation to the Boards of Selectmen and Finance. Both boards voted unanimously to endorse it. Now the initiative goes to a town meeting to be scheduled the end of January
"It was a difficult process for this committee. There were people on the committee that felt that being a senior should automatically qualify you for some form of tax relief. Others felt it should be needs based. The committee had to focus on what would have support at the town meeting," Gorski said.
"There were many heated meetings and I congratulate them for sticking with it," she added.
The recommendation of the committee is to expand the program, which originated in 2000 to match the state's plan up to a maximum of 75 percent of taxes due. The committee said, in its presentation, that doing this would allow an increase of cash flow to help with medication and transportation issues. It would also result in a minimal cost to the town.
In its presentation the committee said it believes the town of Bethany should be proactive, offer reasonable financial aid and help older residents continue to live in Bethany and enjoy a dignified lifestyle.
Gorski said another initiative she has been working on is the town joining the Greater New Haven Transit District. This issue will also likely be on the agenda for the town meeting later this month. Gorski said approval is needed by the townspeople to join the District to reap the benefits.
The District Transit Board has approved Bethany contingent on state funding ($14,000) being in place July 1.
Once the funding is in place seniors and disabled will only have to pay $2.50 each way door to door within the transit district. The District includes Ansonia, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madion, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven and Woodbridge.
Gorski said the transportation will run 365 days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight.
She also said the service is similar to the current senior transportation but is now greatly expanded.
"This is something that will really help seniors stay in town. They won't have to always rely on relatives for transportation," Gorski said.
"Our senior bus is limited (to in-town use). This will augment services the town provides. It does not replace the current bus service," Gorski emphasized.
Human Services Director Jeanne DelVecchio praised Gorski's efforts.
"Derry kicked the door in," DelVecchio said explaining the difficult task it is to weave through the grant process to make something like this happen.
"We need more grants. We need to do everything we can to make seniors aware of this," she added.
Another benefit Gorski has been working on is a program that will allow the rehab of homes
The program has been working in Beacon falls, Naugatuck, Woodbridge and Prospect.
It is income-based Gorski said. Bethany will be receiving $300,000 and if it is spent within two years they can apply for additional funds.
The funds need to be used to mitigate health and safety issues in the home such as furnace repairs, septic systems, wells, roofs, vinyl siding, replacement windows handicapped ramps and bathrooms.
Additionally you can choose your own contractor but they must meet federal guidelines, that is they must be licensed and insured. Also, the contractor is not paid until the job is complete.
Zero payments and zero interest is charged. The loan is repaid when the property transfers hands. There is no time frame.
Gorski sad the average loan seems to be about $20,000.
Income guidelines are annual household for one person $40,600; two2 persons, $46,400; three3 persons, $52,200; four persons, $58,000; five persons, $62,650; six persons, $67,300, seven persons, $71,900; eight persons, $76,550.